Freedom of speech does not include freedom from condemnation of that speech
Posted Sep 20, 2012

Freedom of speech does not include freedom from condemnation of that speech

by Sheila Musaji

The Islamophobia Industry is mounting a full scale assault on what they call the “campaign to outlaw Free Speech”, or the “attempt to enforce Sharia compliant blasphemy laws”, etc. 

David Horowitz  appeared on Fox News with Megyn Kelly and during his almost incoherent rant claimed that the police questioning of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was an example of an individual being “persecuted” for exercising freedom of speech.  Horowitz is simply wrong Nakoula wasn’t arrested, only questioned for half an hour about possible parole violations and released.  Horowitz then once again raises the nonsense about Huma Abedin as a Muslim Brotherhood operative in government and says that there is a “Muslim Brotherhood has a campaign to outlaw free speech”. 

Daniel Greenfield (aka Sultan Knish) has just published an appeal on Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine Is It Time for ‘Make Your Own Mohammed Movie Month’?.  Greenfield is upset about what he calls a “media witch-hunt” against the Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.  He says “The freedom of speech establishment has decided that the First Amendment does not apply here.”

Greenfield’s appeal to his readers to counter this non-existent threat to their freedom of speech :

If there is going to be resistance to this, it is going to have to come from ordinary people.  Intimidating everyone who draws a Mohammed cartoon stops working when tens of thousands of people are drawing them. Turning one man into an example of what happens when you make a Mohammed movie stops working when there are thousands of Mohammed movies being made.  Making a movie sounds daunting, but it’s not. It’s something that you can do on your own or with a few friends.

He goes on at great length providing precise details as to how to carry out this plan, and he closes with

September would seem like a fitting month to be “Make Your Own Mohammed Movie” month, but it’s almost over. October is nearly upon us and there’s something about the Halloween month that seems to fit nearly as well into the picture. The ghost of Mohammed is the specter that haunts the modern world and as it rises from the grave, innocent men and women die. And who is to say that there isn’t a movie in that?

Freedom is not passive. It does not abide waiting around for you to use it. Like all things in this world, it must struggle to survive. Our freedom to think as we wish, speak as we wish and believe as we wish is under siege. The best weapon that the besiegers have at their disposal is our compliance. They can intimidate individuals, but they cannot intimidate the rest of us unless we choose to be intimidated.  The Internet has given us all the tools that we need to fight back. All we have to do is use them.

Brigitte Gabriel’s hate group ACT! for America has issued an email alert and written a petition titled First Amendment Under Attack.  She also raises the issue of the OIC resolution, but of course doesn’t mention the fact that American Muslims have opposed this effort.

Pamela Geller of the hate groups AFDI/SIOA/SION said on Fox News in response to Tucker Carlson’s question about what Obama means when he speaks against denigrating religion, Geller underscored why she has no credibility - except on Fox News.  She went straight into crazy talk: “This is in adherence to the blasphemy laws under the Sharia. Under the Sharia you cannot criticize or offend Islam.” She added that by “condemning the movie, he’s condemning freedom of expression” and as such, “he’s condemning freedom of speech.”  She then accused him of “sanctioning these murderous rages that these Muslim mobs have been going on.” She continued, without interruption, to speak about “First Amendment rights” ...  She said that “we should be condemning the brutal blasphemy laws under the Sharia.” 

Robert Spencer also of the hate groups AFDI/SIOA/SION wrote an article claiming that the riots overseas against the “Innocence of Muslims” film “were all in service of an overarching goal: to intimidate the United States into abandoning the freedom of speech. 

What all of these folks don’t seem to understand is that freedom of speech does not come with freedom from condemnation of that speech, and condemnation of hate speech does not equal an attempt to take away the freedom of speech from those making such hateful speech.  Condemnation is NOT implementing “a de facto blasphemy law dealing with Islam in the United States.”

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

It is perfectly reasonable to both disagree with, or even condemn the speech of another, and at the same time defend their right to engage in such speech.  It is perfectly reasonable to ask an individual to consider the possible implications of hate speech.  It is perfectly reasonable to defend freedom of speech, and yet make a judgement that some speech is not socially acceptable, even though it is legal.  It is also perfectly reasonable to debate possible limitations on free speech.  It is also perfectly reasonable to carry out peaceful protests against hateful speech.  Any intimidation or violence carried out in response to speech is immoral, and illegal and also deserves condemnation and prosecution.  It is reasonable, for example to condemn both the contents of the “Innocence of Muslims” film, and to condemn the violent protests.  See Muslim, Arab, & Interfaith Organizations Condemn Attacks on U.S. Embassies and Film for many such statements.

Since Horowitz and Co. have accused all the national Muslim organizations of being Muslim Brotherhood, including MPAC, how might they explain the fact that MPAC has released a strong statement MPAC Supports Effort to Combat Hatred Through Free Speech, Releases Critique of Global Blasphemy Law:

The Muslim Public Affairs Council today expresses its support for the passage of a historic UN resolution to combat ideologies of religious hatred through free expression instead of silencing expression through a global blasphemy law.

For the past 12 years, the Organization of the Islamic Conference had pushed for a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council called “Defamation of Religions” to be adopted into international human rights law. The stated purpose of the resolution was to fight religious discrimination and incitement to violence through a global blasphemy law. However the United Nations General Assembly recently voted to fight religious hatred with reference to “Defamation of Religions” or similar ideas.

“We are pleased to see the positive direction global leaders are taking in fighting religious hatred, the right way,” said MPAC Government and Policy Analyst, Alejandro Beutel. “Successfully combating discrimination can be done while respecting freedom of expression.”

MPAC is also releasing its new position paper, “No Compulsion in Religion: A Faith-Based Critique of the ‘Defamation of Religions’ Concept.” In our position paper, we oppose the misguided Defamation of Religions concept for two reasons:  First, it runs contrary to Islamic values promoting religious tolerance and a free, civil exchange of ideas; Second, evidence indicates anti-blasphemy laws actually encourages more violence rather than preventing it

How do they explain the statement A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS signed by many Muslim activists and scholars?

How do they explain the many articles by Muslims and Arabs in support of free speech?  Here are just a few:

A Call to Conscience and a Reminder to the Muslims, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
An Idiot’s Guide to Offensive Cartoons, Qadeeb al-Ban Harris
An Open Letter from a Muslim to Muslims:  “Pray And Forgive.”, T.O.Shanavas 
Blasphemy Laws Are Against Islam, Salam Al Marayati
Anti Muslim Rhetoric Reaching a Dangerous Level, Sheila Musaji 
Cartoon Awakening: Toward A Positive Media Strategy, Ramzy Baroud 
Cartoon Wars: The Challenge for Muslims in the West, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas
Charlie Hebdo Incident: An Example of Islamophobia or A Defense of Free Speech? Round Two, Sheila Musaji
Crazy over Cartoons, Hasan Zillur Rahim
Danish Cartoons: Enough Is Enough, Zafarul-Islam Khan
Danish Cartoons: Free Press or Hate Speech?, Louay Safi
The Danish Cartoons: Emotional Torture, Untamed Violence and Intellectual Terrorism, Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Danish Cartoons: From many Muslims, cartoonish excess, Mona Eltahawy
Do Muslim Outcries Against Defamation Serve God?, Anisa Abd el Fattah
Free Speech and Civic Responsibility Tariq Ramadan
Freedoms of Expression and Belief, Istiaq Ahmed
Hate rhetoric is escalating into violence, Sheila Musaji
Ibn Taymiyyah and His Fatwa on Terrorism, Asghar Ali Engineer
Imam Feisal and former Archbishop Lord Carey Call for Calm after Offensive Danish Cartoons, ASMA Society
Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism - Part I - Fatwas (TAM article collection)
Muslim Voices Against Extremism & Terrorism - Part II - Statements by Organizations (TAM article collection)
Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism - Part III - Statements & Articles by Individuals   (TAM article collection)
Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions (TAM article collection)
North American Muslims Determined to Counter Extremism, Violence, and Terrorism, Sheila Musaji
The Not So Funny Cartoon Capers, Abdul Cader Asmal
Open Society in a Closed Circle, Shakeel Syed 
“Opus” Cartoon Not Offensive to This Muslim, Sheila Musaji
Press Misses Point in Cartoon Controversy, Dr. James Zogby
The Rage Game, Putting On The brakes, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
Self-Censorship, Dr. Robert D. Crane 
South Park Cartoon and the Muslim Lunatic Fringe, Sheila Musaji
The special pair of spectacles, Shahzad Aziz
Sticks and Stones May Provoke Others to Break My Bones, James Zogby
Thank God Someone Is Listening to Us - Terrorism Is Not Jihad, Sheila Musaji
Those Danish Muhammad Cartoons, Gary Leupp
Through the Looking Glass:  The Danish Cartoons, Sheila Musaji
Time to Install Circuit-Breakers in the System, Farish A. Noor
What is the Cartoon controversy?, Chandra Muzaffar
What Would Muhammad Do (WWMD), Dr. Hesham Hassaballa
Where Art Meets Ignorance, Ibrahim Mansour

It needs to be added that freedom of speech is not absolute, there are limitations on freedom of speech.  And, there has been and probably will continue to be discussion as to whether or not there should be any limitations. 

Here are only a few recent articles discussing this debate:

Anti American Protest: Free Speech or Inciting a Riot? , James Turnage
The burden of speech, Timothy Egan
Free speech and incitement
Free Speech: Conservatives, Democrats and the convenience of denouncing free speech, Glenn Greenwald
Free speech extends to anti-Muslim video, legal experts say
Free speech in the real world,0,7746352.story
Free Speech Policies for Information Platforms Are Hard, Adam Thierer
Free speech vs hate speech: Nothing Farcical About anti-Muhammad Film, Abbas Barzegar
Freedom of speech, as reaction to anti-Islam video trailer shows, doesn’t come without human toll, Charles Honey
Freedom of speech and press: limits to the first amendment, Henry Cohen
Freedom of speech: finding the limits
Hate speech and free speech, Jeremy Waldron
Holocaust Denial and Freedom of Speech in the Internet Era 
Islamophobia as free speech—a notion that escapes many Muslims
Limits of free speech
One Film That Put Free Speech In the Cross Hairs
Reaction to anti-Islam film fuels debate on free speech versus hate speech, Dan Gilgoff
Schumer calls for “limits on First Amendment rights” during Senate debate
Should Americans Limit Their Speech for the Sake of the Arab Spring?, Patrick Cox
Stretching The Limits Of Free Speech, Ctd, Andrew Sullivan
There are limits to free speech, Ray Hanania
United States free speech exceptions
When free speech costs human life, Qasim Rashid
Why free speech is baffling to many
Why ‘Sam Bacile’ deserves arrest, Anthea Butler